Members of the City Council Finance Committee have approved still another expensive settlement for the family of a man shot by Chicago Police. The aldermen voted to pay the family of 23-year-old Emanuel Lopez $2.2 million, 11 years after Lopez was shot 16 times following a hit-and-run accident on the city's South Side.
Lopez was hit in a hail of gunfire, after allegedly attempting to run down a Chicago police officer with his car. One of the first officers on the scene was Jason Van Dyke, who later would be charged with murder in connection with the shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014.
“Four of the five officers at the scene, including the pinned officer, fired 42 shots at Lopez, striking him 16 times and killing him,” First Assistant Corporation Counsel Jane Elinor Notz told the committee. “If this case goes to trial, a jury could focus on the fact that four police officers fired 42 shots…when Lopez had not committed any serious crime and did not have a gun.”
While Notz said she felt the City could defend the officers’ actions, she advised the aldermen that “a jury could award substantial damages.”
Of the 16 shots fired at Lopez, 14 hit him in the back. Attorney Terry Ekl, who represented the family, said ballistics experts had determined that at least one of those was fired by the officer who said he had been run over by Lopez’s car, casting doubt on whether the story was even true.
At a press conference held shortly after filing his suit, Ekl pointed to a large photo depicting the tire tracks on the police cruiser, which he said had been compared to the imprints on the officer’s pants.
“This tire, did not make those impressions,” he said.
Ekl and the family had initially demanded $18 million to settle the case.
During Monday’s hearing, Notz conceded that an off duty officer at the scene admitted in a deposition that he had been drinking, a fact never revealed in the official CPD investigation.
“The off duty officer, who fired 16 shots, had consumed two beers shortly before the incident,” she said. “Police investigators did not ask him if he had consumed any alcohol.”
During Monday’s hearing, 38th Ward Alderman Nicholas Sposato asked why the case still appears in legal limbo.
“Was any of the five officers charged with misconduct?” he asked. “For eleven years, no officer has been reprimanded or charged with anything.”
In the months after the case, the officers’ actions were determined to have been justified by all investigating bodies, including the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, which conducted its own independent criminal investigation. Notz told the committee that IPRA is currently reviewing the case.
With the settlement now approved by the Finance Committee, it goes to the full Council on Wednesday.